Grand Theft Auto II is the second installment of the fabled Grand Theft Auto games. It still retains the aesthetic and gameplay of the first game; however, Rockstar implemented a few improvements such as story-telling, gameplay, graphics, and a few QoL (Quality of life) improvements. Our GTA II overview will take a deeper look at the last mainline old-school Grand Theft Auto game.
Grand Theft Auto II: Story and Setting
Grand Theft Auto 2 takes place in a single large metropolis called the Anywhere City. The city looks like a fusion of a retro and futuristic city design, focusing on a vivid color scheme. It’s unclear as to what year Grand Theft Auto 2 takes place; however, there are rumors that the game is in 2013, which is almost a decade from today.
You play as Claude Speed, an uprising criminal working for various syndicates within the city. Claude gets involved with many of the gangs within Anywhere City, doing jobs and missions for them.
Rockstar even introduced an FMV (Full Motion Video) to promote and as cutscenes throughout the game. Unfortunately, Claude’s crimes catch up to him at the end of the day and end in his assassination after crossing the line.
Grand Theft Auto II: Graphics, Gameplay, and Controls
Rockstar improved the graphics of Grand Theft Auto II compared to the first game. Grand Theft Auto II now has 3D rendered environment, pedestrians, and vehicles.
It’s a definite step up from Grand Theft Auto I; however, critics have mixed reviews regarding this aspect. The graphics showed an improvement from the first game; it looks much crisper and much sharper than in the first game.
Rockstar also implemented an actual lighting and day and night system for the PC version, at least. Due to the console’s limitation at the time, the Playstation 1 version is limited to the daytime only.
There are a couple of differences between the first Grand Theft Auto game and Grand Theft Auto II. Most of these changes to the controls are refined over the first game, such as swapping the “Walk Backwards” button to the square button and to enter a vehicle, you now have to press triangle (which we’re all accustomed to recent Grand Theft Auto games.)
There is also now a jump over/slide under vehicle button, which is the R1 button, and the attack button is now the R2 button (again, something similar to the latest GTA games.)
As you can see, most of the innovations in the control scheme for Grand Theft Auto II influenced the recent Grand Theft Auto games that we all know and love today.
Keep in mind that this game is the last mainline 2D game for the series; hence it’s an important step that they reinvented the control scheme and correctly imported it into a 3D world without having an entirely different feel.
Core Mechanics and Missions
You need to always remember while playing GTA 2 that “Respect is everything.” The most important part of the map is the payphone. To get jobs/missions, you need to go to a payphone and accept them from there. Similar to Grand Theft Auto I, in order to gain money and multipliers, you need to pass missions to unlock different parts of the map.
The payphones are color-coded depending on the difficulty of the mission and loyalty. The loyalty bar is at the top-left of the screen, and the more loyalty you have towards a gang, the more missions you’ll be able to access.
The Police AI is much more aggressive in this game than in the first game. Grand Theft Auto II introduced the SWAT and military; once you reach a higher wanted level.
The only real way to evade or eliminate your wanted level is by going through a Spray Shop, which is a challenge in itself due to the game not having a minimum to indicate the nearest one on your location. Like the first game, one hit gets you instantly killed, making it more challenging to get through a mission without amassing many wanted stars.
Weapons and Combat
Similar to the first game, the combat feels relatively the same; however, it feels much better with the more innovative controls. There are a few weapons introduced in Grand Theft Auto 2, but let’s take a look at the recurring weapons first.
- Melee Attack (Fist)– Like the first game, you can’t kill people with your fists; you only incapacitate them.
- Pistol– The pistol is the weakest firearm that only fires a few bullets.
- S-Uzi (Machine Gun)– The Uzi fires bullets in vastly more rapid succession than the pistol; however, its firepower is much weaker than the pistol.
- Flamethrower– A flamethrower is as lethal as it sounds. It releases a burst of flames, quickly burning down people and damaging vehicles.
- Rocket Launcher– Using the grenade launcher will propel a rocket towards the target and explode upon impact.
Now, Grand Theft Auto 2 introduced a few additional on-foot weapons, vehicled-based weapons, and mounted weapons.
- Dual Pistol– Imagine having a pistol, and now you have two of them. That’s basically this gun.
- Silenced S-Uzi Machine Gun– A machine gun equipped with a silencer to mitigate the attraction from pedestrians, gang members, and even the police.
- Shotgun– A firearm that does more damage in close-ranged combat. The bullets disperse further the more it travels.
- Electrogun– A futuristic weapon that fires electric bolts at a target. It usually takes two seconds to kill the target, and it’s not recommended to take down vehicles with this weapon.
- Molotov Cocktail– A staple weapon in the Grand Theft Auto Universe. This throwable weapon explodes a sea of flames upon impact; it is ineffective against tanks.
- Grenade– A throwable weapon that explodes after a few seconds.
- Vehicle Mine– This weapon is a proximity mine that you can drop while driving in a vehicle. The mine will explode upon contact with any car.
- Vehicle Oil Slick– You can use this weapon when you mount oil tanks that disperse a trail of slipper oil, causing the vehicle in contact with the oil to lose control.
- Vehicle Bomb– An explosive device that you can install in any vehicle. The bomb detonates as soon as someone enters the vehicle (including the player.) The explosion destroys surrounding vehicles, even a tank.
- Vehicle Machine Gun– Two machine guns inside a vehicle; what more can you ask for?
- Machine Gun (Land Roamer)– A machine gun mounted on an Armed Land Roamer that shoots one stream of bullets.
- Water Cannon– A weapon only found on a fire truck that is capable of pushing people away and can kill them eventually.
- Flamethrower (Fire Truck)– A weapon found on a fire truck in a specific mission and has unlimited ammo.
- Rocket Launcher (Tank)– This rocket launcher is found on a tank and acts as the tank’s turret. It functions similarly to a standard rocket launcher.
Driving and Vehicle Handling
Driving and vehicle handling in this game is pretty much the same as in Grand Theft Auto I; however, it became much more horrible. Vehicles have a hard time turning, and the camera has a hard time catching up to speeding vehicles, and in a game where you’re supposed to get away as fast as possible, it’s one of its weakest elements.
Not to mention that there still isn’t an available minimap, making traversing with a vehicle one of the most challenging tasks in the game; you have to literally memorize the entire map to be able to make your escapes as fast and as fluid as possible.
There are seven gangs that you have to work for in the game, each of them have their respective “Respect” level, wherein it goes up the more missions you do for them or the more rival gang members you kill, or it could decrease if you work for their rival gang.
- Zaibatsu Corporation– The gang appears in all areas; not only that, but they’re also a manufacturer of cars, weapons, and even medication. The Zaibatsu Corporation picked black as their gang color, and three people led the Zaibatsu, namely Trey Welsh (located in the Commercial District), Red Valdez (located in the Residential District), and Uno Carb (located in the Industrial District.)
- Loonies– The Loonies are in the Downtown District with their signature car called Dementia. Elmo leads The Loonies with their gang color, green.
- The Yakuza– The Yakuzas run rampant in the Commercial Area, selling drugs as one of their primary source of power. Johnny Zoo leads the gang of deep blue Yakuzas along with their signature car called the Miara.
- SRS Scientists– The Residential District is where the SRS Scientists reside. They do private and questionable research practices, such as developing advanced weapons. Dr. LaBrat leads the SRS Scientists with their signature color, the pale gold, and their gang car being the Meteor.
- Rednecks– The Rednecks are in the Residential district and are led by their boss, Billy Bob Bean. They are distinguishable by their Elvis Presley looks, and they sell moonshine with their pickup trucks. The Rednecks ironically have a light blue gang color.
- Russian Mafia– The Russian Mafia resides in the Industrial District, and they specialize in assassination missions. Their signature car is the Bulwark, and their boss is Jerkov. They have a gang color of red.
- Hare Krishna– Hare Krishna is a recurring gang from the first game, and they are in the Industrial District as well. They’re recognizable with their orange gang color, and their signature vehicle is the Karma Bus. Sunbeam is their boss.
Finite Lives and Saving
Grand Theft Auto II only has finite lives. In contrast to future iterations of the game where the only way to progress in a narrative perspective is through getting missions completed, in this game, you can still advance by earning enough money/points.
To avoid making the game easier, Rockstar still brought back the “limited lives” available to the player, similar to the first game. If you use up all of your lives, you have to restart from the very beginning of the level.
At this point, Rockstar brought in the game’s newest feature, wherein you can save in a level. To do that, players need to find the Jesus Saves church, which is evident by listening out for an organ playing in the background or hijacking a TV Van.
The TV Van’s antenna will always point toward the church. That’s not all; saving during a level comes at a hefty cost of $50,000 per save, so it’s only strategically best to do before turning off the game.
Sound Score and Radio Stations
Like the first game, the sound effects used in the game are fantastic. From the Elvis-wannabes to the crowd’s reactions to your killing sprees, the city of Anywhere definitely feels alive. We shouldn’t be surprised about this aspect because it’s Rockstar Games.
Their attention to detail when it comes to sound details is one of their signature aspects when it comes to developing open-world games.
One of the signature features in a Grand Theft Auto game is the vast array of radio stations you can choose from, which Rockstar conveniently introduced in this game. There are 11 radio stations available; however, you can only change radio station preferences when using the game’s PC version. Here are the 11 radio stations:
- Head Radio (Available in all areas)
- Rockstar Radio (Available in the Downtown Area)
- KREZ (Available in the Residential Area)
- Lo-FI FM (Available in the Industrial Area)
- Futuro FM (Available in all areas)
- Funami FM (Available in the Downtown Area)
- Lithium FM (Available in the Residential Area)
- Rebel Radio/KING (Available in all areas)
- Osmosis Radio (Available in the Residential Area)
- Heavenly Radio (Available in the Industrial Area)
- KGBH (Available in the all areas)
Grand Theft Auto 2 is the last PC Grand Theft Auto game with a built-in multiplayer until Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto Online. You can play with up to six of your friends through the Internet, LAN, or a direct modem connection.
Since connecting through the internet can be tricky, a few fans made programs such as GTA2 Game Hunter and GTA2 Gamer to provide a more effortless experience.
Critics gave Grand Theft Auto II a mixed reception, praising its freedom and gameplay; however, they majorly criticized how the gameplay is too similar to the previous game. Despite the mixed criticism, Sony awarded Grand Theft Auto II with the label “PS1 Greatest Hits”.
Grand Theft Auto II: Playable Platforms
Grand Theft Auto II has four playable platforms: Microsoft Windows, Playstation, Sega Dreamcast, and the Game Boy Color. There are no current ways to purchase the game through Steam like the first game. However, you can download it legally through Rockstar Games Classics for free.
Before this, I’ve made a statement in the Grand Theft Auto I Overview article wherein the links there do not work anymore; however, upon further investigating the forums, it says that the link still works (in my case, it only shows DNS not available.) I fired up my VPN, and it works off the bat; I can download Grand Theft Auto II now.
The PC version is the best version of Grand Theft Auto II due to its improved graphics, so I recommend it over the other console ports.
Grand Theft Auto II: Alternative Games
If playing the old Grand Theft Auto II isn’t quite to your liking as you can’t bear the retro graphics, here are a few personal recommendations that serve as an alternative to Grand Theft Auto II.
Glitchpunk is a hybrid between Cyberpunk 2077 with old-school Grand Theft Auto games. You play as a cyborg; in fact, it instantly tells you that you have no rights at the first point of the game.
Similar to old-school Grand Theft Auto games, it has camera issues. The difference between Glitchpunk and GTA is that Glitchpunk has more approaches when it comes to engaging in combat with enemies.
Ruiner is a top-down shooter that also has a cyberpunk theme. Its gameplay is pretty linear; however, it focuses more on its combat and a wide array of gadgets you can acquire throughout your playthrough.
Besides that, you’re also able to gain skill points, which you can expend by buying skills that further assist you in combat.
The Ascent is similar to Ruiner, but I feel that this is a more fleshed-out game than Ruiner. It offers more weapons, more sidequests, more enemy variety, and looks a lot better than Ruiner.
There are a few caveats, such as throwing in every enemy you have faced, but you fight them all at once this time and a few questionable checkpoints, especially at the last part of the game. Nonetheless, I’ve had a fun experience playing this game, and I highly recommend checking this out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Does Grand Theft Auto II Have a Story?
Answer: Grand Theft Auto II has a narrative, but Rockstar kept it minimal. The game now at least has a singular protagonist named Claude Speed, which is sometimes mistaken for as the protagonist in Grand Theft Auto III, but there’s no correlation between both of them.
Question: Is Grand Theft Auto 2 Set in the Future?
Answer: According to a few websites, Grand Theft Auto II is in the year 2013; however, I could not verify their sources since they might have seen a different website format than what we have today. As for the manual, Rockstar only used vague metaphors such as “three weeks into the future,” which doesn’t give much to the exact year the game is in.
Question: How Many Missions are there in Grand Theft Auto II?
Answer: There are a total of 67 missions in Grand Theft Auto II; however, they are not required to complete the entire game. Rockstar put in missions to help the player gather enough money to complete the level. If the player chooses to get money in various ways, it’s up to them; that’s the reason why critics praised the game for its freedom.
Grand Theft Auto II is the final mainline GTA game that is a top-down shooter before Rockstar fully transitioned into their iconic 3D world. Grand Theft Auto II is a one-of-a-kind game, and we hope that Rockstar will revisit this type of gameplay for a remake or perhaps develop a spin-off game similar to Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown.